In the groundbreaking 2004 national bestseller “SuperFoods RX,” Dr. Steven Pratt revealed how 14 nutrients common to the most disease-preventing, anti-aging diets in the world exist in 14 “superfoods” easily found in your supermarket. Now, building on cutting-edge science, Pratt leads the next frontier in healthy living with his new book, “SuperFoods HealthStyle: Proven Strategies for Lifelong Health.” Pratt visited “Weekend Today” to share some tips on these superfoods.
- Apples: Apples are a great source of fiber, vitamin C, polyphenols and potassium. Apples have proven themselves to be potent weapons against cancer, heart disease, asthma and Type II diabetes. They are also filled with super antioxidants. The antioxidant activity of approximately one apple is equivalent to about 1,500 mg of vitamin C. And don't peel the apple! The peel has two to six times more polyphenols and vitamin C than the flesh of the apple itself.
Try to eat: One apple a day
- Pomegranates: A new study from the University of Wisconsin finds that pomegranate-fruit extract inhibits highly aggressive prostate-cancer cells in the lab. Pomegranates are a great source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, polyphenols and potassium. Pomegranate juice may have two to three times the antioxidant power of green tea or even red wine. The juice has been shown to lower blood pressure and may improve cardiovascular health and reduce cholesterol.
Try to eat: 4-8 oz. of 100% pomegranate juice multiple times a week
- Kiwis: Kiwis are a great source of vitamin C, folate, vitamin E, potassium, fiber, carotenoids, polyphenols, chlorophyll, glutathione, pectin and contain low sugar. Kiwis are an unusual source of vitamin E since the vitamin mostly comes from nuts and oils. One medium kiwi packs as much vitamin C as an orange. Kiwis help thin the blood, like aspirin but without the side effects.
Try to eat: One kiwi many times each week
- Garlic: Get out the mouthwash! Garlic is a great source of vitamin C, potassium, arginine, selenium and polyphenols. It may look small, but it plays a huge role in our health. Garlic helps fight cancer and cardiovascular disease as well as having anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. There are nearly 100 nutrients in a clove of garlic — the most important is a sulfur compound or an amino acid called allicin. But allicin is not present in a clove of garlic — it's formed when it is crushed, cut or even chewed!
The best source of garlic is fresh garlic. There are supplements, but one garlic supplement has 600 mg of allicin, while one clove of fresh garlic has 18,300 mg of allicin. Eat fresh!
Try to eat: Multiple times a week
- Onions: An onion is similar to garlic — it's a great source of vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, fiber, selenium, fiber and polyphenols. Just like garlic, health-promoting compounds are released when the onion is cut. Onions have been shown to lower high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Onions, along with tea, apples and broccoli are the richest dietary sources of flavonoids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by 20%. And regular consumption of onions has also been associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Try to eat: Multiple times a week
Parsley, sage, rosemary and ... cinnamon? One study found that 10 grams of spice (roughly 2 tablespoons) contained as many health-promoting antioxidants as 10 servings of fruits and vegetables. Virtually all spices are beneficial and they're essentially free of calories. They are full of phytonutrients that lower inflammation and other age-related diseases like Alzheimer's.
- Cinnamon: The USDA found that half a teaspoon a day lowered blood-sugar levels in patients with Type II diabetes and brought down their bad cholesterol. For a double benefit, try substituting spices for salt. Use a vegetable all-purpose seasoning, available in most natural-food stores. Also, smelling cinnamon offers a “brain boost” and it is anti-bacterial. It's has been shown to be effective in fighting E.coli.
- Turmeric: Although best known as a spice that gives a distinctive flavor and yellow color to curry powder and mustard, turmeric (curcuma longa) is a member of the ginger family and has long been used for healing. Ayurveda, siddha, unani and other traditional medicine systems practiced in India have relied on this pungent spice for centuries, so it's not surprising that the Asian subcontinent is where the most intensive research about this herb has been conducted. The plant's healing properties reside in its fingerlike stalk, which is scalded and then dried for medicinal preparations. This is the same part of the plant used to flavor, color and preserve foods. Turmeric also relieves rheumatoid arthritis and cystic fibrosis.
Perhaps the best news is that dark chocolate (but not milk chocolate) is now a superfood. It's not just the antioxidants that make it healthy. Dark chocolate contains substances similar to the heart-healthy compounds in green tea. The latest research focuses on flavanols. They help boost the production of nitric oxide in blood vessels, lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow. Six brands were tested for levels of these compounds. The winner: Newman's Own sweet dark chocolate. It's even organic. Super, indeed.Try to eat: About 100 calories of dark chocolate daily, adjusting your calorie intake and exercise appropriately
Fats and extra virgin olive oil
- Extra virgin olive oil: Long a staple of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, olive oil is looking even better now that scientists have shown that the extra-virgin variety has anti-inflammatory properties. Extra virgin olive oil is a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, carotenoids, polyphenols and phytosterols. Olive oil can reduce the risk of breast and colon cancer, lower blood pressure and improve heart health. Look for the words “first cold pressed,” which indicate that little heat was used. Heat destroys some of the beneficial compounds. The greener the oil, the better.
Try to eat: One tablespoon on most days
- Avocado: A great source of fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, magnesium, folate, vitamin E, chlorophyll and carotenoids. Avocados are rich in magnesium, which is an essential nutrient for healthy bones, the cardiovascular system (especially regulating blood pressure), prevention of migraines and Type II diabetes. Avocados provide more magnesium than the 20 most commonly eaten fruits. They are also rich in potassium and folate. Various studies have shown a correlation between diets high in folate and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Try to eat: 1/3-1/2 of an avocado multiple times a week